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Election 2004

Opponents in Senate race push their goals

The District 3 candidates both say their main priority is meeting constituents' needs.

By AMY WIMMER SCHWARB
Published October 25, 2004

Senate District 3 stretches more than 150 miles, from Jasper near the Florida-Georgia state line to Inverness in the heart of west-central Florida.

The interests of its constituents are diverse. From the college-educated base in Leon County, home to Florida State University, to the Florida native population of Taylor County, the rural Big Bend county, to the horse farms of Marion County, to the retirees of booming Citrus County, the district includes 400,000 people across 13 counties.

State Sen. Nancy Argenziano, R-Dunnellon, says those constituents deserve a full-time senator. Her Democratic opponent, Barry Brooks, the chief deputy tax collector in Leon County, says he will operate the office the way the state constitution intended - as a "citizen legislator."

"You're not going to do the job for the people if it's part-time; you can't do it," said Argenziano, whose $29,916 state Senate salary is her primary income. In this year's financial disclosure, she also listed the sale of a house as another income source.

Meanwhile, Brooks earns about $66,000 in his county job, a figure Argenziano often points out on the campaign trail as her way of saying that Brooks will have more allegiance to that job than serving his constituents. But Brooks believes that, as a working man who is also a legislator, he will have more in common with his constituents.

He also believes Argenziano's personality - proponents call her spunky, detractors say unclassy is a better way to describe her - goes too far in the collegial state Senate. He says her straight-talking antics get her in trouble and hurt her constituents.

"There is a fine line," Brooks counters, "between being a statesman and being a politician." Brooks counts himself on the statesman side.

Argenziano disagrees with Brooks' assessment of her, saying she is known for standing her ground firmly, but also for bringing all affected entities to the table when something needs to be hashed out. "That's what I'm known for," she said, "and that's what I'm proud of."

On the issues, Argenziano touts her record of fighting for smart growth and water conservation. She also noted that she isn't afraid to stand up to the governor and the controlling Republicans in the Legislature when necessary. She voted against a bill in 2003 that allows local phone companies to raise their rates, a bill that Republicans tried to repeal in 2004 after an outcry from constituents.

Argenziano also fought a proposal pushed by the Council of 100, a group of private business people that advises the governor and floated the idea of pumping water from water-rich North Florida to the water-starved South. Through Senate committee meetings throughout Florida, residents made it known that the idea was unpopular everywhere, and the idea died - though Argenziano says you never know when it could pop up again.

Meanwhile, Brooks says he wants to see the District 3 senator focus more on issues like economic development for rural counties and affordable health care.

Brooks touts an economic development plan that would favor helping existing businesses first. He also wants to see the state do more to help the emerging ecotourism industries of the coastal Big Bend counties.

He hopes to repeal the public funding of the high-speed bullet train, a state constitutional amendment passed by voters, because he sees no benefit to District 3.

"I do promise to be your advocate," Brooks said. "I do promise to be a consensus builder. I do promise to be proactive."

-- Amy Wimmer Schwarb can be reached at 860-7305 or wimmer@sptimes.com

[Last modified October 25, 2004, 02:35:37]

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